04/03/2012 3:22PM

EZ Effort, Florida Derby Day Recap, Worktab


*EZ EFFORT, making his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher, toyed with a group of maiden special weights going seven furlongs at Gulfstream on Saturday afternoon.  He won by eighth lengths under John Velazquez and received an 87 Beyer Speed Figure.  A half-brother to Grade 2 route winner Uh Oh Bango, seven-time stakes-winner Ez Dreamer, stakes-winning sprinter Top Debutante and stakes-winning router French Hit, Ez Effort was privately purchased following a runner-effort against California bred (or sired) maidens at Santa Anita on January 7.  Foaled in Arizona, Ez Effort sports the look of a promising miler. 

*Julien Leparoux received some flak for his ride about UNION RAGS in the Florida Derby, but I'm not sure he could have done much more.  There was a big bullseye painted on Union Rags, and Javier Castellano, aboard second-choice EL PADRINO, was insistent on boxing his former mount on the rail throughout.  There was nothing nefarious or dirty about Castellano's intentions.  Rather, it was an aggressive case of race-riding.  Sensing that Union Rags was the horse to beat, Castellano decided to make Leparoux's life miserable while El Padrino raced in the clear.  Unfortunately, for Castellano, El Padrino didn't fire at all.  Meanwhile, Leparoux had a choice late on the far turn.  He could have swung six wide for clear sailing or wait down inside for something to open up.  He decided to stay in and Union Rags had some more traffic issues in the lane.  Still, the colt rallied gamely (he was the only one making up any ground on the two leaders) and he figures to gain valuable experience from the effort.  To his fans and admirers, the fact that Union Rags didn't win was disappointing, but he ran well and is expected to take another forward move in the Kentucky Derby.  Whether he is fast enough to win the big one is another story, entirely.

*It was great to see some Formbloggers at Gulfstream on Saturday.  Here's the recap:

ROGUE ROMANCE (RACE 1, $13.00), making his first start since the 2010 Risen Star, looked very good in winning an 'n2x' optional claimer at a flat mile.  He went to the sidelines last year after fracturing his left front foot, but looked none the worse for wear for trainer Ken McPeek, who is really high on this Smarty Jones colt. 

"TRAVELIN MAN WILL NOT WIN TODAY," exclaimed Mike Beer at our pre-card seminar.  Someone forgot to tell the Gulfstream-loving Pletcher-trainee, however, as he held off favored JERSEY TOWN to score by a half-length at 3-1 odds. WILL'S WILDCAT may be better with some moisture in the track.  Beer would later have to buy me a frosty beverage after WILLA B AWESOME upset the Santa Anita Oaks. 

AWESOME MARIA (RACE 3, $2.20) successfully defended her Rampart Stakes title with a workmanlike win over Beloveda (now 7-8 over fast dirt). She received a 100 Beyer Speed Figure and is one of the top hitters in a stacked distaff division.

ZA APPROVAL (RACE 4, $4.20) outgamed KANAGARO to take a chalky optional claimer on the grass.  The others looked overmatched on paper.

FORT LARNED (RACE 5, $26.20) broke the track record for 1 3/16 miles with a game victory in the Grade 3 Skip Away Stakes.  Ridden by Leparoux, Fort Larned prompted pacesetter UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN, took over at will and beat back a stretch challenge from ALMA D'ORO.  Favored WHERE'S STERLING looked uncomfortable over the surface. 

SATURDAY'S FOR FUN (RACE 6, $7.00) got the win in a race marred by a spill, but UPKEEP could be the one to take out of this maiden heat.  A first-time starter by Street Sense, Upkeep really caught the eye with his paddock appearance.  He was sent to the front under Castellano, took pressure throughout and fought it out all the way to the wire in a runner-up effort.  DISTORTIONIST, a first-time starter trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, broke slowly and was steadied slightly on the final turn.  He angled widest turning for home and finished evenly for fourth.

Richard Dutrow had a good-looking firster in STREET THUG, but he simply was overwhelmed by EZ EFFORT (RACE 7, $3.20).  NORTH OCEAN, a son of Beautiful Pleasure, broke poorly and passed some tired horses late.  PRESENT COURSE, a three-quarter brother to turf router TELLING, was buried down inside before being outpaced by the top two turning for home. Both North Ocean and Present Course can improve with more distance.

BRILLIANT SPEED, making his first start since a third-place run in the Breeders' Cup Turf, only could pass tired ones in the Grade 3 Appleton.  The Breeders' Cup Turf is his long-term goal, however, and this one-mile race may merely have served as a prep.  CORPORATE JUNGLE (RACE 8, $6.00) took another one down for Chad Brown.

EASY CROSSING (RACE 9, $4.00) was bet like he couldn't lose and he didn't, but he almost did.  ARGENTINE TANGO made a late run to miss by a nose to the Clement-trained turf performer.

GRACE HALL (RACE 10, $4.40) is a very good sophomore filly and she turned the tables on YARA with a 6 1/2-length win in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks.  Grace Hall only received an 87 Beyer Speed Figure, but was visually impressive in running away from the previously undefeated ZO IMPRESSIVE.

TAKE CHARGE INDY (RACE 11, $17.40) took advantage of a moderate pace and the cat-and-mouse game going on behind him between UNION RAGS and EL PADRINO to take the Florida Derby.  He's ridden by Calvin Borel so he may well be an underlay in the Kentucky Derby.  Let's give trainer Pat Byrne a ton of credit as he was criticized for scratching Take Charge Indy out of the Tampa Bay Derby to await this, seemingly, tougher spot.  REVERON, making his first start since coming out of the Sam F. Davis Stakes body sore, tried hard all the way to the wire. 

HIT IT RICH (RACE 12, $7.40) is one of those late-developing Shug McGaughey projects and she ran down the previously undefeated AQSAAM in the Grade 3 Orchid Stakes at 12 furlongs on turf.  AQSAAM sped off to a lonely lead and held gamely despite setting good fractions.  KEERTANA gave it her best shot, but flattened out just a bit in the final sixteenth. 

IMHOTEP (RACE 13, $4.40), last seen in the Queen's Plate, had no problems with this maiden claiming group for Pletcher. 


*If you like hurdlers, BLACK JACK BLUES, winner of the Grade 1 Grand National Stakes over jumps in 2011, made his seasonal debut a winning one at Camden on March 31.  The nine-year-old gelding took the Grade 3 Carolina Cup by 6 1/4 lengths in track record time of 4:06.80 for the 2 1/4 miles.  Undefeated in three North American starts, Black Jack Blues gave between four and eight pounds to all of his rivals. 


Here's the latest "Under the Radar" column:



Here are the top 25 winning Beyer Speed Figures from last week's races (3/26/12 - 4/1/12):

1.  NATES MINESHAFT - 113 - New Orleans Handicap (G2) - 1 1/8 Miles - Fair Grounds
2.  FORT LARNED - 108 - Skip Away Stakes (G3) - 1 3/16 Miles - Gulfstream
3.  LADY OF GREATNESS - 101 - OC 62k/N2X - 6 1/2 Furlongs - Gulfstream
4.  AWESOME MARIA - 100 - Rampart Stakes (G3) - 1 1/8 Miles - Gulfstream
4.  ROGUE ROMANCE - 100 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 1 Mile - Gulfstream
4.  TRAVELIN MAN - 100 - Sir Shackleton Stakes - 6 1/2 Furlongs - Gulfstream
7.  CORPORATE JUNGLE - 99 - Appleton Stakes (G3) - 1 Mile (Turf) - Gulfstream
7.  GANTRY - 99 - Duncan F. Kenner Stakes - 6 Furlongs - Fair Grounds
9.  CASINO HOST - 98 - Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - Fair Grounds
10. GOLDEN FRONTIER - 96 - Md Sp Wt 53k - 6 Furlongs - Oaklawn
10. SANGER SILVER - 96 - OC 62k/N2X - 6 Furlongs (Tapeta) - Golden Gate
12. BELIEVE YOU CAN - 95 - Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) - 1 1/16 Miles - Fair Grounds
12. TAKE CHARGE INDY - 95 - Florida Derby (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - Gulfstream
14. ARTEMUS KITTEN - 93 - Bayou Handicap - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - Fair Grounds
14. HOLLADAY ROAD - 93 - Alw 71850N2X - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - Santa Anita
14. SCORED - 93 - OC 20k/N1X -N - 6 1/2 Furlongs (Polytrack) - Turfway
17. DERBY GOLD - 92 - Echo Eddie Stakes - 6 1/2 Furlongs - Santa Anita
18. CALIMONCO - 91 - Sidd Finch Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - Santa Anita
18. IT'S NEVER TO LATE - 91 - OC40k/SAL - 6 Furlongs - Gulfstream
18. KISSIMMEE KYLE - 91 - Bayou St. Johns Stakes - 5 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - Fair Grounds
18. ZEB - 91 - OC 62k/C -N - 5 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - Fair Grounds
18. TEND - 91 - Alw 33700NC - 1 Mile - Mountaineer
18. ZA APPROVAL - 91 - Alw 59000N1X - 1 Mile (Turf) - Gulfstream
18. HIT IT RICH - 91 - Orchid Stakes (G3) - 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) - Gulfstream
25. HERO OF ORDER - 90 - Louisiana Derby (G2) - 1 1/8 Miles - Fair Grounds
25. VALID CITIZEN - 90 - Clm c-8000N1Y - 5 1/2 Furlongs - Gulfstream
25. WESTOVER WILDCAT - 90 - OC 40k/N3X - 6 Furlongs - Penn National

*NATES MINESHAFT's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.

*VALID CITIZEN was claimed for $8,000 trainer Ferris Allen from Juan Vazquez.



*ACCLAMATION (bruised right front foot) - 6F - 1:13.80H (turf, dogs) - Santa Anita - March 29
*ALL STAR HEART (splint right front leg) - 3F - 36.00H (turf, dogs up) - Santa Anita - March 29
*AWESOME GEM (hind-end) - 4F - 48.60H - Santa Anita - April 3
*B SHANNY (knee chip) - 3F - 38.09B - Belmont (training) - March 30
*CELTIC PRINCESS (splint bone foreleg, surgery) - 5F - 59.60H - Santa Anita - March 29
*CONTESTED (chipped ankle) - 6F - 1:12.00H - Santa Anita - March 29
*DULLAHAN (popped splint) - 5F - 1:02.10B - Gulfstream - April 1
*EBLOUISSANTE (cough) - 5F - 1:01.00H - Hollywood - March 28
*EXCESSIVE PASSION (off right foreleg) - 4F - 46.80H - Pleasanton - March 29
*FRENCH STORM (quarter crack) - 6F - 1:14.20H - Hollywood - March 29
*GYPSY ROBIN (undisclosed) - 5F - 1:01.00B - Keeneland - April 3
*HEAD HONCHO (undisclosed) - 3F - 38.00B - Woodbine - March 31
*JUNIPER PASS (bruised cannon bone) - 4F - 51.40B (turf, dogs) - Santa Anita - March 29
*LA NEZ (non-displaced condylar fracture hind leg) - 6F - 1:14.60B - Santa Anita - March 30
*MAJOR ART (strained tendon) - 5F - 1:01.40H - Santa Anita - March 30
*NIGHT TIDE (bone chip knee) - 5F - 59.60H - Hollywood - March 29
*OVERDRIVEN (cannon bones) - 4F - 50.62B - Palm Meadows - March 31
*PRESIOUS PASSION (throat surgery) - 5F - 1:00.90H - Gulfstream - March 31
*RAIL TRIP (grabbed quarter) - 4F - 48.80B - Hollywood - March 30
*RUMOR (bled) - 5F - 1:01.20H - Santa Anita - March 29
*SASSY IMAGE (torn quarter left front foot, non-displaced chip right hind ankle) - 5F - 58.60B - Churchill - March 31
*SINISTER QUILL (ankle) - 4F - 50.20B - Woodbine - April 2
*SUCCESSFUL DAN (strained suspensory) - 3F - 35.60B - Keeneland - April 3
*ZAZU (inflamed shoulder) - 4F - 49.40B - Santa Anita - March 31


Our uncle's maiden Golden Frontier romped in the 7th at Oaklawn on Saturday in, what looks like, one of the fastest 6 furlong times of the meet. Do you happen to know the figure it was assigned? Thanks.
Bryan in Lexington

Bryan in Lexington,
Golden Frontier got a 96 Beyer (yes...a 96!) breaking his maiden in
OP8 on Saturday. Good luck with your future star!
Alan Levitt


Congrats to BELVEDERE for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling exercise.  Let's go with Friday's eighth at Keeneland for the next race.


Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan."
Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.
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I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place. The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are. I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

Best of luck to all.